Saturday, February 18, 2012

Another One for the List

As I often vent to my friend Margo, how did I get to my age (almost 56) and not know about this or that book? How, I ask you?

The latest book to add to that list is The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, a Scottish writer in the nineteenth century. MacDonald was a friend of Charles L. Dodgson, and helped encourage him to publish Alice's Adventure in WonderlandThe Princess and the Goblin came out as a book in 1871, the same year as Through the Looking Glass.

1871. This book was long in print before I read it in 2012. As I raved to Warren over breakfast this morning, "Your mother probably read this book. My grandmother probably read this book. Heck, your grandmother probably read this book!"

Note: Warren is a most tolerant man when it comes to listening to me talk endlessly about whatever book has captured my heart at the moment. Add that to the very long list of his wonderful attributes.

The Princess and the Goblin is noteworthy, historically and literarily, for many reasons. I'll spare you that discussion. But I will share something about it that fascinates me, and that is the number of authors whom it influenced: J.R.R. Tolkein, C. S. Lewis, and Madeleine L'Engle among them. It was Madeleine, in fact, who lead me to The Princess and the Goblin, citing it as a very important book in her childhood pantheon.

I have already earmarked a number of books for Baby SanchezThe Princess and the Goblin just joined that list. I am sure there are more to come. Other grandparents out there may knit blankets or build cribs. Me? I build libraries.

Recently Alise asked me what I wanted to be called when the baby arrived? I laughed at the time, as that question had never crossed my mind. As I peruse my book list, though, I find myself thinking "Granny Books."

Granny Books. Yeah, that has a nice ring to it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


We don't go in for Valentine's Day at our house. No flowers, no lace dripping cards, no candlelit dinners. Nothing big or showy, or even little and sentimental. So what I was feeling this morning was distinctly unrelated to the day.

But the fact that it is Valentine's Day probably made me feel more put out than I would have been if it were, oh, say, Groundhog's Day.

It is That Time of Year. The Symphony's BIG concert is coming up fast on the first Sunday in March, and Warren's normally rigorous workweek has shifted into a high intensity and demanding workweek (and work weekends). It is a given that this happens. Normally I take February for what it is: all Symphony all the time.

Yet when Warren called me this morning and gave me a rapid-fire-matter-of-fact-yes-my-schedule-has-changed-I'm-just-leaving-for-Columbus-now answer in response to a text I had sent, I forgot what month it was and hung up in tears. Nothing wrong, mind you, nothing that couldn't be tweaked in my schedule to accommodate the Symphony, but...

And that was where my thoughts jumped off from: but... But for once I would like not to have to be responsible. But for once I would like not to have to be the one trudging in the snow to the office. But for once I would like not to feel guilty about my schedule.

I know, I know. I'm whining. Or I was as the tears fell. I know, I like walking. I know, we are close enough in town that most of the time I am able to walk and I don't need to vie for car time. I know, I have the more flexible schedule. I know, it is February. And for crying out loud, it was just a light snow and the temperature was warm, so it wasn't like it was a hardship for me to walk this morning.

But it stung all the same. So much so that when Warren called me back some 20 minutes later, upbeat and chipper and on the road to his appointment, I couldn't quite match the tone of his mood. I told him so.

When I left for the office five minutes later, I admit it, I trudged. And, I am embarrassed to say, my mood trudged as well.

Last night I read The Country Kitchen, by Della T. Lutes. It was a Katrina book from our great book packing adventure and one that I am grateful she told me to take. Written in 1935, it is the author's memoir of growing up in rural Michigan in the late 1870s. Memories are intermixed with recipes and the entire book is a gentle, comforting read from an era long gone. The last chapter centers around a Christmas dinner that carried the potential for going terribly awry, but which managed to come to a satisfactory conclusion. Looking back, Lutes wrote: It had been a good day, after all. Nothing to make history, but good to live, good to remember. 

I thought of that phrase as I walked. Nothing to make history, but good to live, good to remember.  I tucked the thought away and went through my day, trying not to dwell on my bruised mood, but not entirely letting it go either. It was that kind of day.

Tuesdays are usually long days for me. By the time I got to Warren's office and by the time he got done with the Symphony, the hour was late. I was tired, Warren was chilled from the long day. We came home, we ate a non-memorable late supper, we talked quietly of quiet matters. While I finish typing this, Warren is downstairs working on, yes, more Symphony matters. After all, it is February and the BIG concert is just a few weeks away.

Before sitting down to write this post, I picked up The Country Kitchen from my desk and reread the lines that I had carried with me all day long. I then picked up my notebook of quotes and turned the pages until I came across a companion quote from Matchless by Gregory Maguire: they had the warmth of one another, and enough on which to live, and in most parts of the world, that is called plenty.

It is Valentine's Day, which we don't celebrate, although Warren surprised me with a Valentine's Day card at supper. A thoughtful, sweet, loving card. The BIG concert is almost upon us. And on balance,  it has been a good day. We have the warmth of one another, and that is plenty.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Wild With Joy

Everything happens in life. Some of what happens in life is terrible. We know this is true because it has always been true. But there is another truth available, an inexplicable and sometimes crazy truth that is no less compelling. The living of a life, day by day and moment by moment, is also wild with joy. Reeve Lindbergh, Forward From Here.

I have been sitting on this story since Christmas Day at the request of two people very near and dear to me who asked me to keep quiet. But they just lifted the ban, oh, about fifteen minutes ago and it is time to go public.

As I have mentioned before, my dearly loved daughter-in-law Alise is a beautiful writer. So I am going to let her tell the story:

Coming August 2012: Baby Sanchez! That's right, I'm totally incubating as we speak. Saw the little bean on an ultrasound today, and he/she has a super strong heartbeat and is doing water aerobics as we speak. Exciting!

The living of a life, day by day and moment by moment, is indeed wild with joy.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Lost and Found

Scrabbling among the cookbooks this morning, looking for something else, I pulled out a folded newspaper insert of cookie recipes. As I refolded it to place it back on the bookshelf, a stained and well-worn oversize index card slipped out from the folds.

I held it up to Warren. "Ah! Look what I found."

My grandmother's popcorn ball recipe.

The card slipped back into my life at a good juncture. Good as in "I needed that." I am coming off several intense days: intense activities, intense work, intense travels, intense interactions. Most of them good, mind you, but intense all the same. Warren is in his own intense period: an upcoming blockbuster concert, a flurry of grant applications coming due, the general press of the Symphony even when there isn't a blockbuster concert in four weeks. It has been so grueling that I often feel by the end of the day as if we have been thrown up on shore after hours in a heavy surf, exhausted and beaten by the cold water and grateful beyond words just to be alive.  

In the middle of this intensity, we packed in a trip (intense) to New York so Warren could attend the midwinter managers meeting of the League of American Orchestras. (Yes, it was intense.) In past years, I would split my time between friends, all of them dear to me, making trips into the city to see them. This year, I spent all of my free time with my longtime friend Katrina. 

Both Katrina and I have been experiencing intensely tumultuous personal times, and both of us had been looking forward for weeks to seeing one another. As Warren aptly noted, I needed time with Katrina. 

Katrina is preparing for a cross-country move and much of what we did while we were together was sort and pack books. Tens of books, hundreds of books. We set out for inspection a massive doll collection that Katrina inherited from a friend of her mother's. It was a tsunami of dolls, so many that I turned to Katrina and said "these are depressing me," which caused us both to start laughing. We sorted through lifetime accumulations of her children's and even her own school papers and drawings and photos. We left the house a few times, to run some errands, to tour the Cloisters, but mostly we stayed home working.   

And throughout the packing and the sorting and the tossing and the boxing, Katrina and I talked and talked and talked. It was healing talk, it was exploring talk, it was comfort food talk.

I am typing these words on Saturday morning while Warren works nearby marking bowings on music for the upcoming concert. Our evening plans have been rewritten; our dinner guests have been under the weather and called to cancel. I will miss them. All the same, I am looking forward to a quiet evening of just the two of us, away, if only briefly, from the intensity of the recent weeks. I am looking forward to an evening of comfort food talk and time with my beloved Warren.

And then there is the missing recipe that slipped back into my life today as quietly as it had disappeared. The card is sitting in front of me as I type and I am almost (but not quite) tempted to make a batch. I said when I began this that it came back at a good juncture and it did. I am still not "back" to writing, although scribbling even this small piece gives me hope. I am still at times all but driven to my knees with what I can only describe as sorrow, undefined and vague, but sorrow all the same.

But the recipe is back home. And so am I.